Where is tea shop’s sewage going in Dassel? council asks

November 26, 2007

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

The City of Dassel has a mystery on its hands. No one knows for sure where the sewage from the Thistlerose Tea Shoppe on Highway 12 has been going for the past year.

Cameron and Sarah Goodrich have been paying for city sanitary sewer with the assumption this is where it goes. Recently, they were told it has been going to a drainfield under the Dassel Medical Clinic. The Goodriches asked the city council last Monday how city officials could not know what lines are tied into the city’s sewer system.

“Please, please. Really work to get this documented,” Cameron Goodrich said.

Mayor Ava Flachmeyer assured the Goodriches that if it turns out the building is not connected to the city’s system, they will be reimbursed for what they paid for sanitary sewer service.

City Administrator Myles McGrath said no one knew there was a problem until this July, when the tea shop’s sewer was blocked. City maintenance workers put dye into the building’s drains to see where it came out, and it didn’t come out anywhere, he said.

The Goodriches tried inserting a plumber’s snake into the lines and it went out 200 feet, well past the edge of their property, and possibly coiled around inside a septic tank.

Council Member Bob Wilde said some parts of Dassel’s sewers are more than 100 years old. The city didn’t map things well in those days.

There are three theories of what has been happening to the building’s sewage. First, the sewage flowed into a private drainfield, where the new clinic is now. However, the clinic’s property owners checked city records for easements and maps before they started digging, so they couldn’t have known they were digging up an old sewer system, McGrath said.

The second theory is that the Goodriches have a private system with a septic tank and drainfield, and no connection to the city’s mains at all.

The third theory is that the Goodriches have both city and private connections.

Wilde said his property has two lines, one active and the other inactive.

City Engineer Chuck DeWolf of Bolton & Menk said he has seen set-ups in other cities in which there were all three, drainfield, septic tank, and city sewer, connected to one source.

The Goodriches have had cameras inserted twice into their property’s sewer lines. The first camera went in only so far, and then it came to water. Operators couldn’t see any farther. The second camera beeped whenever it went around a corner, and was easier to track, Sarah Goodrich said.

She said not knowing if and where the property is connected to the city’s system has been frustrating. The couple can’t sell or rent the building until the problem is solved, she said.

DeWolf said the city’s entire sanitary sewer system is currently being mapped with a type of global positioning system. When it is complete, there will be a map showing all the connections, he said.

In other sanitary sewer business, the council approved the sanitary sewer budget for 2008, although it projects a loss. McGrath advised the council not to raise sewer rates for 2008, until the city has a chance to see if its new collection system will raise the additional revenue needed for an entire season.

Sewer rates are not based on sewer flow, but on how much water is used during the winter months. Also, the billing statements are sent out every month instead of quarterly, making them easier to pay.

Odds and ends

In other business, the city council:

• approved a request from the fire department to buy a diesel Bobcat UTV with a fire suppression system on it for $21,341 from Farm-Rite Equipment Inc. of Dassel.

• heard a report from DeWolf that the water tower being designed for the city will be a pedestal-type, similar to the kind Litchfield has. He also advised the council to think about what will be painted on it.

• set a personnel meeting to consider raises for city employees for the 2008 budget for the week of Nov. 26.

• heard a report from DeWolf that Meeker County Highway Engineer Ron Mortensen can’t make a final decision about the Fourth Street railroad crossing’s Quiet Zone installments until he gets permission from MnDOT. Fourth Street also is state aid County Road 4. Mortensen doesn’t want to jeopardize its state funding, DeWolf said.

• announced the Truth in Taxation hearing will be Monday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. in city hall.